CAST: Catarina: Ghyslaine Raphanel, Diana: Mylène Mornet, Don Henrique de Sandoval: Christophe Einhorn, Rebolledo: Armand Arapian, Don Sébastien: Dominique Ploteau, Comte de Campo Mayor: Paul Medioni, Mugnoz: Nicolas Gambotti, Barbarigo: Sébastien Lemoine
Choeurs Cori Spezzati
Chorus master: Olivier Opdebeeck
Orchestre de Picardie
Edmond Colomer, conductor
Live recorded in Compiègne, Théâtre Impérial, 12.1999
Les diamants de la couronne is a delightful and unfortunately neglected opera by French composer Daniel François Esprit Auber of which I believe to exist only this recording, which fortunately had been recorded both in audio and in video formats. The story centres on a queen of Portugal who, in the mid eighteenth century, sells the authentic crown jewels to replenish the exhausted coffers of State and has them counterfeit by some brigands to conceal the ruse. For this reason, she disguises herself as Catarina, pretending to be the niece of the chief of the brigands (Rebolledo) and (to spicy the story) falls in mutual love with the young Don Henrique de Sandoval, nephew of the minister of police and already promised to his cousin Diana, who, for her part, has already fallen in love with Don Sebastian. After some ups and downs, the usual happy ending will satisfy the protagonists’ wishes.
It is a good fortune that this opera has been entrusted to some fine artists and was not mistreated with the usual negligence that too often spoils the outcome of minor operas. In our case, the magnificent Ghyslaine Raphanel, in the shoes of the protagonist, stands among the singers. She do not possess a pure timbre (her high notes are indeed rather shrill) and has a tendency to hiss the “s” and to sing too much the “r”, but she is a marvellous singer, at ease with the arduous coloratura that dot her first two arias, and knows how to conquer the listener with her firm and yet amiable personality. A little note about her stage costumes: in the first act, when she enters in Catarina cloths, she wears an unmistakable Zorro costume (!), although later she will be dressed in the fashion of the period, like the other characters.
Around Raphanel, we find in particular the good tenor Christophe Einhorn, who portrays well the romantic character of Don Henrique although his singing is not always impeccable, and the lovely Mylène Mornet, who is remarkable in her duet with the heroine in Act II. Edmond Colomer’s conduction is lively and attentive and conveys with efficacy the musical spirit of Auber.